VARIOUS ARTISTS ”Sweet Dreams : Where Country Meets Soul Vol. 2”

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Sweet Dreams: Where Country Meets Soul, Ace’s second dip into the country-soul well, is every bit as good as its 2012 predecessor. Basically, it’s cut from the same cloth as the first volume, concentrating on recordings from the late ’60s but stretching deep into the ’70s (Millie Jackson’s “Sweet Music Man” dates from 1977), with Ted Taylor’s 1962 “I’ll Release You” and Orquestra Was’ 1996 “Forever’s a Long, Long Time Ago” functioning as de facto ringers. “Forever’s a Long, Long Time Ago” may fit aesthetically but certainly not sonically, as it’s a crisp digital blast on a collection devoted to warm, lush, analog soul. There are lingering elements of highly produced, backing vocal-laden soul from the early ’60s — the blueprint Ray Charles wrote on his trailblazing Modern Sounds in Country & Western music in 1961 — but nearly all of this is deep southern soul, either slow-burning laments or sweaty, horn-punctuated workouts (Johnnie Taylor’s funky reworking of “Sixteen Tons” is unexpected and wonderful). This is the sound of the south, where the lines between country and soul blurred beyond recognition, producing magnificent music. There are no hits here — indeed, some of this is even unearthed, including James Carr’s “Tell Me My Lying Eyes Are Wrong” — but that only illustrates how deep the country-soul river ran: it was a constant among a certain brand of soul singer, as this splendid collection makes plain. With any luck, there will be a Volume 3 on the horizon.